Is happiness as important as GDP?

Andrew Oswald considers recent moves in economics, famously the most dismal of sciences, to take the happiness and psychological health of the population as seriously as a country’s GDP

My subject – economics – is becoming cheerier. You may have noticed from the newspapers that there is significant interest in the issue of how to measure human “happiness”, and that the prime minister, David Cameron, has asked government statisticians and economists to stop focusing so intently on gross domestic product (roughly, a simple count of how rich a country is) and to start collecting persuasive measures of national well-being and happiness.

Cameron has set us a complicated task. But social scientists have recently been doing a great deal of research on the topic. In my judgement, we have been getting somewhere. This research was not driven by a concern for “impact” in today’s sense. It was spurred by intellectual questions about how humans are, rather than any practical desire to alter our world – although the results may do just that.

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By admin

Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst  (Lion Hudson, 2014; second edition in process) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.

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